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Will Mendelson/MEDILL

Today's chocolate shops are boutiques of flavor.

Hard workouts call for chocolate in your diet

by Will Mendelson
April 10, 2012


Will Mendelson/MEDILL

Believe it or not, chocolates may be good for your       fitness regimen.

Life just got a little sweeter.

Regular chocolate consumption is actually linked to a healthy weight, according to a recent study of 1,000 adults completed at the University of California at San Diego.

“People have just assumed that because it comes with calories and it’s typically eaten as a sweet… it would inherently have been one way: bad,” said Dr. Beatrice Golomb, who conducted the study  published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The study involved 1,000 mostly middle-aged adults who exercised three times a week and ate chocolate twice a week. Those who ate chocolate the most frequently tended to have lower body mass indexes.

Chocolate companies are quick to point out other benefits - but so are personal trainers. The antioxidants in chocolate, especially dark chocolate, come from antioxidant-rich cacao beans. Chocolate may also contribute to improved cardiovascular health, Golomb said.

“Studies show that dark chocolate helps reduce blood pressure and some heart disease because it’s rich in antioxidants,” said Terrence Terrell, a personal trainer in Chicago. “I’ve also heard about chocolate increasing male libido.”

Other fitness trainers also attest to the chocolate contributions to fitness, especially during a strenuous workout or immediately following exercise.

“Chocolate can increase one’s resting metabolic rate,” said Blake Raun, a trainer at Lifetime Fitness in Chicago. “Having a higher resting metabolic rate means better metabolism and the more calories one can burn.”

The resting metabolic rate, or RMR, is the minimum number of calories the body needs to support basic physiological functions, according to

While both trainers admit that they would not recommend chocolate as a stand-alone supplement to any of their clients, the new study links chocolate’s properties to benefits in exercise performance.

Golomb also praised chocolate’s benefits in fitness, and she said that chocolate milk is often an optimal sports drink during and after working out. She noted findings from a study done with lab rats.

”Chocolate essentially acted as an exercise magnet, allowing rats to run farther and increase muscle mass,” Golomb said. “The chocolate studies in rats have shown that the rats increased their endurance, and there is strong reason to anticipate this in humans.”

And then, of course, chocolate offers a caffeine-like boost. Caffeine increases endurance and muscular performance, and chocolate has theobromine, a compound of the cacao plant. Very similar to caffeine, theobromine offers performance enhancing benefits, according to Golomb.

So the next time you hit the gym, consider adding some chocolate to your regimen.